But by the time she was done with medical school and a residency – or rather when they were done with her – Dr. Link was more concerned about finding the best medications to treat her patients’ ailments than helping them change their diets.
Besides, she had learned so little about nutrition during her medical training that she would not have even known what food to recommend.
It took her own life-changing experience with cancer and a stay at Hippocrates Health Institute to clarify her vision and enable her to become a doctor with one foot in the medical world and another in alternative, nutrition-based therapies with an inviting practice on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Dr. Link’s medical career started as many do. She attended medical school at the University of Chicago, and then moved closer to her New York roots for a residency in internal medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in Manhattan.
Then she began a fellowship in epidemiology at Cornell Medical College, but five months into that fellowship she was derailed by a diagnosis of cancer, a sarcoma on her uterus.
She followed the conventional path of surgery and chemotherapy, and then, in the spring of 1999, began her journey toward regaining her health and learning about the power of diet and lifestyle.
Hippocrates was not a complete unknown for Dr. Link.
Her grandparents came to Hippocrates in the ‘60’s when it was in Boston and Ann Wigmore was leading the way.
As the story goes, Wigmore mentioned to Dr. Link’s grandfather that she wanted to electrify the hand juicer she had been using to make wheatgrass juice. Her grandfather told her, “My son-in-law is very handy.”
And for the next 40, Dr. Link’s father manufactured the Wheateena wheatgrass juicer.
Dr. Link’s education about using diet and lifestyle to improve health began with Hippocrates’ three-week program, and continued a few years later with the Health Educator Program.
She has taken courses in nutrition and heart disease, nutrition and cancer, herbal medicine, and medical nutrition, among others. She completed a second fellowship in cancer epidemiology at Columbia University’s School of Public Health where she researched the relationship between diet and cancer.
For that fellowship, Dr. Link followed guests after they stayed at Hippocrates to report on their health. Her findings were recently published in two peer-reviewed journals.
But perhaps she has learned the most from her own experience with a primarily raw food diet over the last 10 years: the challenges, benefits and secrets to successfully eating raw.
Almost three years ago, Dr. Link opened a nutritional counseling practice.
As she puts it, any number of conventional physicians could prescribe medication as well as she could, but there were few who were equipped or even interested in guiding patients to better health through diet and lifestyle.
That’s where she had the most to offer.
Dr. Link says her approach has been formed by the combination of her conventional training, her education in alternative nutrition and her first-hand experience with a life-threatening illness.
Her practice’s motto: The knowledge of medicine. The power of nature.
Her patients come to her for things as simple as wanting to lose weight, eat better, or to resolve digestive problems. But they also come to seek help dealing with more dire challenges such as metastatic cancer.
At a first appointment, Dr. Link evaluates the patient’s medical history, does a full physical exam, reviews tests and develops a plan based on the health challenge and the patient’s own goals.
Some patients are ready to buy a juicer on their way home from the office and start eating raw at their next meal. Others make it clear that they are looking for a much less extreme change in their diet. Whatever the patients’ preferences, Dr. Link works with them to achieve their objectives.
Dr. Link emphasizes that she believes the raw diet, with vegetable juicing and wheatgrass juice is the most nutritious, alkaline, anti-inflammatory diet she knows.
“If someone is ready to start juicing and eating raw, that’s fabulous,” she said. “But if someone is not even sure she wants to give up her diet soda and dinners at her favorite restaurants, there’s no point in trying to get her to change in ways she is not interested.
“It is my job to educate and inspire my patients to change the way they are eating and living, and to meet them where they are. Sometimes that means making simple dietary changes, and sometimes it involves a complete lifestyle overhaul,” Dr. Link said.
About a year after beginning her nutritional counseling practice, Dr. Link realized she needed a more effective way to help patients change what they were eating. She needed to get into their kitchens.
That is when she began offering Kitchen Makeovers. Depending on what the patient is looking for, a Kitchen Makeover could show a patient how to sprout and shop for healthy foods, or might involve purging the pantry and refrigerator.
Often patients who come to Dr. Link are interested in alternative therapies, some of which are in conflict with their conventional doctor’s recommendations.
This can be confusing and stressful for the patient. With a foot in the medical world and another in the alternative, Dr. Link can often offer a third opinion to help make sense of the options.
As is written on the cover of her brochure and the home page of her website, www.llinkmd.com, Dr. Link’s purpose as a nutritional counselor is to help her patients maximize health and minimize medications. In her quiet, cozy office on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, she is doing just that.
Vol 29 Issue 2 Page 20